#55 What does an audience and Pavlov’s Dog have in common?


We’ve been using Sun Tzu’s foundation principle that “war is governed by five constant factors”, and we’ve been using this as a basis for exploring the eight constant factors of platform presence.


We’ve been talking about being an engaging speaker for the past few episodes. Today, we continue this conversation and I want to focus on the first 90 seconds.

I’m sure a lot of you will have heard of Pavlov’s Dog? Let me tell you the story will quick just for those that are not familiar.

Dr. Ivan Pavlov won the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for this experiment measuring how and when a dog would salivate. Now, here’s the premise. Bring a dog food, and they salivate. We had a Labrador for many years. When food was coming we needed a bucket for the saliva.

Anyway, Dr. Pavlov inserted a special device that measured how much saliva a dog produced when food was brought to it. This was the control of the experiment. Next, he added another factor. He synchronized a ringing bell with bringing the dog food. He continued to condition the dog repeatedly for some time by always giving the food and the ringing bell together. After doing this conditioning for enough time, the dog would start to salivate when the bell was rung, even when there was no food.

Here’s the interesting bit. Here’s the connection with an audience.

An audience has become conditioned to being, well… an audience. There is an expectation that has been planted in us, and when we see a speaker come to the platform to speak, we start to ‘salivate’, for lack of better words.

Let me explain.

Here’s a common sequence of events that take place with 99.9% of all audience members. At first the brain experiences a sense of novelty (a new experience), at which point we’re mentally stimulated, interested, and aware…  maybe even a little excited. Then our brain gets used to what’s going on, and an impression has been set.


Audiences have been ‘trained’ or ‘conditioned’ through hundreds of repetitions. Without even knowing it, an audience will ‘assess’ you in the first 90 seconds and that first impression is extremely challenging to replace.


So, instead of an action point of the day, I’m going to give you a question to ponder.

“What three things can you do, in the first 90 seconds of you next presentation or speech, that will engage the heart and mind of the audience, and confirm the impression that you are a platform master?

There is more to come.

About the author: Eugene Moreau

Eugene Moreau is a Certified Master Coach, Author and Corporate Consultant with over 30 years experience. He is a Master Presenter and developer of the 13 Box Presentation System and The EPIC Presenters Masters of Influence programs.

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